Regional Director, USA Sport Group.
Has the technique of tennis players improved over the last 30 years or is it just an improvement in the technology used?
Tennis fans are often divided over who is the greatest tennis player of all time. Is it players such as Borg and McEnroe or are modern players such as Nadal and Federer considered more skilful?
Many changes have taken place in tennis over the years. However, the development of tennis racquets from wood to composite materials may have had the biggest effect on the game since it began in 1875. The composite tennis racquet allows players to generate much more power and enabling the use of top spin, forcing the ball to drop down into the court and therefore allowing players to strike the ball harder. This has resulted in many players hitting from the baseline as coming up to the net can be too risky, resulting in an easy passing shot for the opponent. This has lead to a shift in the style of play. Most modern players choose to play a power game from the baseline instead of the more traditional serve and volley tactics.
Detailed studies into the bio-mechanics of the service motion has lead to a huge increase in the speed of the serve, combined with increasing strength of the players. It has been shown that the composite racquet has not had much of an influence on the serve but that it is mainly due to the strength of the players and the improved technical motion of the serve.
If Nadal was given a wooden racket, would he beat Borg in his prime?
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